Maguire, Van Dijk, Varane: Ranking centre-backs at the Premier League's 'big six' clubs

Harry Maguire came under fire during Manchester United’s 1-1 draw at Burnley in the Premier League on Tuesday night.

The Red Devils skipper has cut a shadow of his former self this season with many United fans calling for Victor Lindelof or Phil Jones to take his place in Ralf Rangnick’s starting XI.

As such, when Wout Weghorst spun him with such ease at Turf Moor to tee up Jay Rodriguez’s equaliser, it was inevitable that the knives would come out on social media.

Maguire under pressure

And the longer that Maguire’s decline in form drags on without signs of improvement, the quicker that he will slip down the rungs of the Premier League‘s best centre-backs as a consequence.

In fact, bearing that in mind, we wanted to assess the extent of the damage caused by Maguire’s 2021/22 struggles by comparing him to the other centre-halves to represent the so-called ‘big six’ clubs.

Besides, while Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Arsenal aren’t necessarily the division’s best six clubs, they’re certainly the top dogs when it comes to finances.

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Let’s start easy: What was Tottenham’s old ground called?

Ranking Premier League ‘big six’ centre-backs

So, when we pit Maguire up against every senior centre-back at United and his other ‘big six’ rivals at the present moment, where does he rank?

Well, you can find out by reading our ranking of the Premier League’s ‘big six’ centre-backs – other opinions are available – down below because it’s fair to say that Maguire has got some quality opposition.

26. Joe Rodon

25. Trevoh Chalobah

24. Japhet Tanganga

23. Rob Holding

22. Malang Sarr

21. Phil Jones

26-21 summary

Look, there’s no shame in finishing near the bottom of a list that contains so much talent and quality, especially in the case of players like Chalobah and Tanganga who are still finding their feet as young pros.

Elsewhere, we’ve never been overly convinced by Holding as a top-tier Premier League defender, even if the occasional do-or-die masterclass makes him a sturdy squad player for Arsenal to keep around.

And although Jones gets a much tougher rap on social media than he deserves, it’s hard to deny that his time at Old Trafford as the club’s fourth-best centre-half has reached a natural conclusion.

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20. Davinson Sanchez

19. Eric Dier

18. Gabriel Magalhães

17. Ben White

16. Eric Bailly

20-16 summary

If there’s anything to take from this section, it’s that the Premier League’s ‘big six’ clubs have plenty of talent at centre-back because these five defenders are very able and gifted players.

Sanchez and Gabriel are ultimately high-class defenders despite their penchant for clangers and White has the potential to become a regular starter for England even if his Arsenal move hasn’t been without teething problems.

Dier is a sound enough asset at the back without having set the world alight for a good few seasons now and Bailly is far, far better than some fans’ preoccupations with his unorthodox defending suggest.

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15. Joe Gomez

14. Nathan Ake

13. Ibrahima Konate

12. Victor Lindelof

11. Cristian Romero

15-11 summary

Maybe we’re being a little generous to Gomez and Ake because they certainly haven’t produced their best football in the last few years, but they’ve still got enough credit in the bank to crack the top 15.

Konate, by contrast, is on the rise as he looks to transfer his quality from RB Leipzig to Liverpool and there’s good reason to think that Lindelof is United’s second-best centre-back on current form.

And we just want to see a little more of Romero in the Premier League before we get too swept up in the hype around him, but it’s clear that he’s got all the tools to be a huge success under Antonio Conte.

Soccer Football – Europa Conference League – Play Off Second Leg – Tottenham Hotspur v Pacos de Ferreira – Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, Britain – August 26, 2021 Tottenham Hotspur’s Cristian Romero in action REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

10. Harry Maguire

The ranking you were probably all waiting for. Look, Maguire’s form has been pretty desperate this season and even a writer who has banged the drum that he deserved the ‘world-class’ label at times will admit that.

As such, there is good reason to think that there are nine better centre-backs than the United captain amongst the ‘big six’ clubs with unforced errors and general vulnerability creeping in more and more.

However, to say that Maguire shouldn’t be anywhere near the top 10 is simply hyperbole because we can’t allow his current rut to invalidate his brilliant performances at Euro 2020 and last season for United.

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9. John Stones

Sadly, Stones will only continue to slip further and further down the rankings as his role at City continues to fluctuate, but there’s no denying that he’s a top-level defender despite Pep Guardiola’s tinkering.

8. Andreas Christensen

The world has woken up to Christensen’s quality across the Thomas Tuchel regime with the poise, solidity and consistency that he brings to Chelsea’s backline making him a real asset to the European champions.

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7. Joel Matip

By far and away one of the most underrated players in world football, Matip is the Robin to Virgil van Dijk’s Batman and has comfortably asserted himself as the second-best centre-back at Anfield.

6. Thiago Silva

The performances that Silva is dropping at 37-years-old in football’s highest echelons is nothing short of remarkable and the legendary Brazilian is showing no signs of stopping with a stellar 2021/22 campaign.

5. Raphael Varane

Has he been show-stopping since moving to Old Trafford? No, but does he still rank amongst the world’s very best centre-backs? Of course he does.

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4. Aymeric Laporte

You know what you’re getting with Laporte: pure, pure class. Not only is the City general incredibly gifted on the ball, but he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty when the moment calls for it either.

3. Antonio Rudiger

From forgotten man under Frank Lampard to one of Chelsea’s best players with Tuchel, Rudiger deserves to be given a blank cheque for a new contract after his stunning performances in the last 12 months.

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2. Ruben Dias

The best centre-back in world football last year, Dias was frankly disrespected with a 26th-place finish in the Ballon d’Or rankings and he’s continued to shine at the highest level for City this season too.

1. Virgil van Dijk

Still the best of the best. Van Dijk is the Rolls Royce of defenders that centre-backs of his era will always be compared against because there’s simply nothing that the Liverpool juggernaut can’t do.

Sure, he might have declined ever-so slightly since his major knee injury, but dropping down a few notches from Ballon d’Or-contending form still makes him the Premier League’s finest centre-half.

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Don’t write off Maguire

So, yes, Maguire is still in the Premier League’s top ten centre-backs when it comes to the ‘big six’ clubs.

Is that generous? Maybe, depending on just how cynically you view Maguire’s recent struggles, but we can’t completely succumb to recency bias when you consider just how brilliant he’s been for United at times.

Long, long gone are the days of genuine comparisons to Van Dijk and very real questions need to be asked about Maguire’s suitability as a regular starter for United – and the club captain, at that.

GET MAGUIRE OUT HE IS AN IDIOT!” (Football Terrace)

However, suggestions that Maguire simply isn’t anywhere near the level of a top-class defender aren’t something that we can get behind.

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